Photo: Haris Nukem / Courtesy of Ninja Tune

Scottish Producer Denis Sulta’s New Ninja Tune EP Is His Defining Work So Far

Aye Spoake Te Sumwuhn & They Listenhd is a defining work for Scottish producer Denis Sulta. Overtly addressing his issues with anxiety, he uses the musical tools at his disposable to work through his subconscious.

Aye Spoake Te Sumwuhn & They Listenhd
Denis Sulta
Ninja Tune
8 November 2019

Make no mistake; the cover of Denis Sulta’s new EP is a dramatic statement of intent. Bathed in red light amid swirls of smoke, the Scottish DJ’s striking red hair, makeup, and jewelry draped over his bare chest betray a Bowie-esque sense of compelling androgyny. However, it is the look on his face that really captures what this collection of tracks is all about. A look of both confidence and defiance that make it known that this is a true representation of who he is.

Fortunately, the music is every bit as captivating as the front cover. Aye Spoake Te Sumwuhn & They Listenhd feels like a defining work for Sulta. Not because this is the finest album he will ever make. No, he will make better records. Rather there is more of a sense that this collection of tracks marks a turning point for Sulta, the artist. Overtly addressing his issues with anxiety, he uses the musical tools at his disposable to work through his subconscious, sieving through his angst and working his issues out in real-time.

His experiences are what give the album heart and character, but it would mean little if the music wasn’t constantly inventive, displaying a crystal clear vision. Sonically, there is little of the good-time disco sound and the crowd-pleasing big tunes he has previously been best known for. Instead, Sulta reaches inside his musical soul and wrenches out an imaginative mix of jittery drums, abrasive rhythms, and warped tempos.

Opening with “In~Narito”, a track that sees Sulta finding chinks of light on the greyest of days. With a steady kick drum beat and bubbling electronics, Sulta teases out bright, synth melodies that drench the whole thing in sunshine. “Gas Whillis (While I Paint My Nails)” is far more jittery with flashes of white noise and knotty, unpredictable beats aimed to twist up flailing limbs on the dancefloor. At various points, it feels like it might tear itself in two until Sulta reaches deep inside the chaos and pulls out another shining, euphoric melody.

“ForTee” is even more unhinged. Full of IDM beats and gnarled synths, at one point, it sounds like it’s chewing up the speakers from the inside. However, halfway through, he stumbles upon an isolated oasis of calm with a lolling synth line that gently builds before spiraling off into the darkness. On “I’m Not Always Right, So I Listen”, little snippets of Sulta’s voice locked in conversation are blended with volatile beats and stuttering synth loops, giving it a little more personality. It’s evidence that Sulta is revealing more of himself in the music and adds to the general cohesion of the whole thing.

“Matthew Keeps Me Pirrie” is a more straight-up house track with atmospheric, ambient swells settling on top of chunky basslines and deep beats. The track feels like Sulta at his freest and most natural. That is likely because it was inspired by a family friend who advised him to play the music that comes naturally rather than exhaust himself trying to emulate anyone else.

“It’s Tough But Not As Much As the Dream Is Worth (Joseph)” is the longest and most expansive track on the EP. It presents an opportunity for Sulta to allow the various distinctive elements of his sound to slowly unfurl around the crisp techno percussion and constricting synth lines. It feels like his most natural-sounding track, especially when his distorted voice emerges to address his battles with anxiety directly.

Featuring more metallic, industrial beats “Dan (wll SOME day KNOW How Special He Makes Me Feel)” is by far the darkest sounding track on the EP. As Sulta rides the sonic turbulence to its conclusion, it’s almost as if the listener is a party to his efforts to tame the disorder in his head. The EP ends with a shout out to Belfast on “Welcome to the Rest of My Life”. It captures his gratitude towards his audience. To those clubbers that bring light and real meaning to euphoric DJ sets.

Sulta’s first EP for Ninja Tune finds the blissful sweet spot between chaos and calm. For every moment of glitchy mayhem, Sulta restores the balance with a freshly polished melody. While many of the sounds may sound familiar, Sulta taps into them in his distinctive way, cleverly playing with the tempo or subtly warping the rhythm. As the cover suggests, this is who he is, and this is who he was always meant to be.

RATING 8 / 10
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